Embracing the unknown
Anyone who posts for this week’s Alphabe-Thursday knows just how difficult it is to come up with something credible for the letter X. I won’t bore you with the details of my several searches, but I will admit to looking up an X-list for Words with Friends in an attempt to find something useful. That turned out to be dead end, so I decided to check out the X section of our Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary to see what it had to offer. What a wonderful surprise! Not only did I find a word to use for this week’s challenge, I also found its antonym—two for the price of one!
xenophilia (n) – attraction to or admiration of strangers or foreigners or of anything foreign or strange
xenophobia (n) – fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything foreign or strange
The following quote, associated with xenophobia, reminded me that I, like most Americans, am only a few generations away from my own immigrant story.
Remember, remember always that all of us…are descended from immigrants and revolutionists. ~Franklin D. Roosevelt
Like so many others of the era, my grandfather (then 9 years old) along with his mother and older half-siblings, transited through New York’s Ellis Island in 1904 en route to join the family patriarch who had immigrated in 1903.Ellis Island photo downloaded from morgueFile.com;
scrapbook supplies from Digital Scrapbook Place
Imagine the scene:
- the press of hundreds of people, all anxious about the future especially since most of them had no idea what that might involve;
- all thrilled to be on solid ground after the unfamiliarity of an ocean voyage;
- many weak from the effects of seasickness but, still, determined to look as healthy as possible to avoid being marked for deportation;
- most unable to speak English;
- all unable to imagine the journey they still faced (my ancestors had to make their way from Ellis Island to central Montana, half again what they had already traveled)
Despite the difficulties then and in the years to come (my oldest uncle often mentioned the sometimes waterlogged sod hut the family lived in before they could afford a woodframe house), they persevered and thrived. We are a large family—11 children from our grandparent’s generation, 49 grandchildren, and too many great- and great-great-grandchildren for me to keep track of. I’ve never tried to figure this out, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find family members in all 50 states and beyond.
Among the first cousins, we have a doctor, several nurses and teachers, engineers, other professionals, and blue collar workers. Some of us have served in the military and some of us enjoy more “alternative” lifestyles. But when we get together, we all recognize the common bond we share and the older we get, the more we appreciate the sheer grit and guts it took for our ancestors to leave their homeland to confront an unknowable future in the United States. Xenophile or xenophobe, I doubt any of those brave immigrants would have imagined the impact they and their descendants would have on the United States. I am proud to be one of those descendants.